Thursday, February 11, 2010

Nerd Word of the Week: Hyperfiction

A Picture of a eBookImage via Wikipedia
Hyperfiction (n.) - A form of fiction that takes advantage of interactive media to elevate a story beyond mere linear narrative. Basically, a story that incorporates hyperlinks to allow the reader to experience the text in any particular order, and to explore story materials that are ancillary to the main plot. For example, a hyperfiction novel might include interactive maps of the setting, video news accounts of events in the story, and blogs or journal entries made by several characters. Hyperfiction is still in its infancy, though Shadow Unit by Emma Bull, Elizabeth Bear, Sarah Monette, Will Shetterly, Leah Bobet and Holly Black is perhaps the most well known sci-fi experiment in the medium to date.

I bring it up because: Hyperfiction is more than fiction on a hypertext-capable reader, as Elizabeth Bear informs us. This is the point being missed in the recent Amazon vs. MacMillan brouhaha, to say nothing of the announcement of the iPad --  fiction that is native to digital media does and is more than fiction native to analog media. Put another way, producers did more with DVDs than they did with VHS tapes. Interactive features, games, alternate audio commentaries, whole extra cuts of the film, easter eggs, and the like. This is taking advantage of the potential of the medium. To date, we've stuck analog books on digital readers and called them ebooks. But what does a hyperbook look like? How would a hypernovel differ from a novel? We haven't even begun to really ask the question. Until we do, don't expect e-readers to become "necessary" to the average consumer. You haven't replaced their novels yet. You've only copied them.